7 Things to Consider Before Transitioning to a New Pharmacy Job

FEBRUARY 24, 2018
Since I launched the biannual pharmacist summit at The Happy PharmD, I’ve learned a lot about career transitions. Most importantly, I’ve learned that there are many mistakes, pitfalls, and unknowns that pharmacists routinely fail to consider before transitioning to another job. In preparation for the upcoming pharmacist summit March 26-28, it’s worth sharing what I’ve discovered.

1. Consider company culture.

Sometimes, unhappy pharmacists are desperate for change: anything would be better than the job they are in now.  While I understand the sentiment, I caution you to slow down. Making an impulsive move can land you in a job even less desirable than the one you’re already in.

The best thing to do is research everything you can about the new position. Start on LinkedIn, and search for people who have worked for the prospective company in the past. (Past employees may be more likely to share the good and the bad.)  Find current employees who can answer questions about the job so you’ll have insider information about whether you might be a good fit.

There’s a common saying that people leave managers, not jobs. In other words, it’s not the work itself that drives pharmacists away, but rather the culture created by the leadership. As it is, the consistent recycling of pharmacists in some workplaces suggests that all is not well. Ask about the company’s tech turnover rate. If it’s low, that suggests that people are relatively happy with the working conditions at that company. If it’s high, that may mean the opposite.

2. Consider your 401K or retirement account.

Tim Ulbrich, one of the speakers at our pharmacist summit, shared that most people never consider what will happen to their retirement funds if they switch jobs. They never consider the possibility that their account could be taxed or even penalized.

Contact your own HR department before you make a definite decision about transitioning to another job. Your retirement account doesn’t have to prevent you from finding a more suitable job. Instead, get all your ducks in a row and make sure you understand the situation and then transition accordingly.

3. Consider the local area.

My current job is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and it’s frigid here. So cold, in fact, that the politicians have their hands in their own pockets. The harsh reality is that we often lose people because the weather isn’t very agreeable. If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, there’s almost nothing to do here. One pharmacist moved here and then left within 10 months for another job.

It’s no surprise to anyone that moving is a hassle: changing schools, learning a new system at work, and setting up a new home. Who wants to endure all those changes only to move again a few months later? Ask yourself hard questions. Can we live here? What will we get sick of if we live here? What am I sick of now? Will the new place offer me the change I’m looking for?

4. Consider whether you’ll fit in.

It’s very hard to know ahead of time who you’ll be working with at a new job. No doubt your coworkers will claim to be team players, but not everyone is. In rare cases, workplace bullies are allowed to stick around, creating chaos for everyone involved.

A pharmacist friend of mine was offered a position in a community setting, so I challenged her to research the company before making any decisions. She discovered that many of the employees were unhappy with their work, in part because there was a tech who had a consistent history of bullying the others. Management ignored the problem and the culture became toxic.

She immediately declined the position, and she saved herself unimaginable heartache.

5. Consider the unexpected costs.

Relocating costs money. Aside from the obvious costs, like airline tickets and household expenses, moving sometimes demands purchases you never imagined. I never thought I would buy a car starter, but in Michigan, it’s almost mandatory.

No-fault car insurance in some states is another example. The upside is that you won’t be at fault if you get into a car accident; the downside is that your car insurance will be much higher as a result.  

Consider state income taxes, too. It’s tempting to think that any state without its own income taxes is a desirable place to live. In the case of Tennessee, for example, the cost to maintain your licensure is much higher than other states.

One more thought: the cost of living is so high in certain parts of California that people are rumored to have moved into boats and trucks to avoid paying outrageous housing costs. Remember to consider all your costs.

6. Consider unexpected job changes.

In my first official job, I was hired to do outpatient ambulatory care, until unexpected changes landed me in an anticoagulation clinic. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the change, but I can absolutely understand why that kind of unexpected move might be upsetting to other people.

Although it’s impossible to predict the future, you might be able to learn something from the past. Ask whether the new company routinely moves employees to different positions. Ask how often job titles change within the company. Talk to other employees to find out if they have been moved within the company and connect with people who previously worked for the company.

Realize, too, that some people are generally negative about everything, and you’ll have to temper their feedback with that of other, more even-tempered employees.

7. Consider enrolling in my free pharmacist summit.

Our pharmacist summit is perfect for everyone in pharmacy: those who want to move, those who aren’t sure if they want to move, and those who are curious about developments in the pharmacy field that might make moving worthwhile at some point. The summit will feature more than 25 speakers from multiple pharmacy specialties, and they will walk you through the things you must know in order to transition to a new job—even if you have no experience in a particular field.

The summit is free, requiring only an investment of your time. Valued at $497, it could save you thousands of dollars by helping you be mindful of all aspects of job transition. The summit is a deep dive into the topic of job transition, and every pharmacist can benefit from the information presented there.

Transitioning to a new job doesn’t have to be so hard. We’re here to help.

Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
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